I interrupt the series of “What I did on my holidays” to bring you a review of something properly exciting. We went to a West End show! For the first time in a very long time, the doors of the theatres are open and we were there to see “The Prince of Egypt” at the Dominion Theatre. Now, I should probably confess that I’ve never seen the film, unlike the people behind me who were threatening to sing along with all the songs, but I’m pretty familiar with the story. 40 years of recounting it at length at Passover have installed it fairly firmly in my brain. After all, the story of the Exodus is important to both Jews and Christians and our family – as Jewish Christians – have heard it from both points of view. But this was the first time we were witnessing it being brought to life in this way, full of brutality but also humanity.
And it’s pretty brutal to start with. Eva was a bit scared of the cracking of the whips as the Hebrews built the pyramids and she hid her face when the Hebrew babies were being killed. But it soon takes on a far more tender tone, as baby Moses is rescued by Queen Tuya in a beautiful scene that sees the company take on the form of the River Nile, rolling Moses’ basket in Tuya’s arms and his new destiny. I should say at this point that the age rating for the show is 7+ and children far younger than Eva (9) were coping just fine with the slavery scene. But if you do have a particularly sensitive one, it might be worth prepping them that there is some initial peril and suffering but that it’s pretty essential for the story.
So Moses is rescued, and grows up as a brother to the heir to the throne, Rameses. The relationship between the brothers is very much the core of the story and gives it its heart. From carefree pranksters riding their chariots through the marketplace (“Faster”) to grown men burdened by unbearable responsibility, they drift apart, come back together and are violently wrenched apart again. Luke Brady (Moses) and Liam Tamne (Ramses) are really convincing as brothers who are genetically different yet bonded by something that’s hard to break, even in the face of war and plagues.
If you’re a Bible purist, you might wonder where some of this source material comes from but it’s probably best not to be a purist about this and just enjoy it as a piece of entertainment. The story deviates a few times – especially the ending – but it’s best not to overthink. Because as a piece of entertainment, it is incredibly entertaining – the songs are spectacular and the effects on stage breath-taking at times. There were audible gasps during the Red Sea scene. The group dances are full of energy, especially when Moses is dancing with the Midianites towards the end of Act 1. I think that was Eva’s favourite scene as it was a bit of light relief after some of the heavier themes of the first act. And it was led by Clive Rowe who, as the kids know, has performed with my old choir a few times so I have shared a stage with Jethro. True fact.
The second half number “Simcha” was also a highlight, as the Hebrews celebrated what they thought would be their route to freedom. There was such passion in their voices and dances that it was all the more crushing when that route to freedom was crushed. But that led to the Plagues sequence, which was one of the most spectacular parts of the whole show. The Nile turned to blood, fire rained down and the plague of boils was so realistic it was hard to look at. I won’t spoiler it by telling you all the details but it was an immense sensory experience, especially after being away from live theatre for all those months. At the performance we were at, the composer Stephen Schwartz and writer Philip LaZebnik were in the audience and came up to speak at the end. I think they spoke for us all when they said how much they’d missed this and how emotional it was to see the show brought to life. Even tough guy Hotep looked like he had a little tear in his eye.
So, I would definitely recommend this show as a summer treat for older kids. It’s dramatic, poignant and often very funny – you will go through the full gamut of emotions while watching. And “The Prince of Egypt” is taking part in the extended Kids Week 2021 so there are bargains to be had for applicable shows. More details here
I would say that *extremely* sensitive children may find some of the scenes hard to deal with – the standard disclaimer for the show warns that “flashing lights (photosensitivity), haze, smoke, pyrotechnics, live flame and the portrayal of violence are featured on stage and loud sound effects can be heard throughout the auditorium”. So do make a judgement call based on your own child’s capacity to cope…but it is a very rewarding experience. It’s light on the romance elements, which make it good for kids like Reuben who like their musicals full of action, less full of lovey-dovey stuff. And very much one that the adults can enjoy too. It’s a powerful way to bring such a well-known story to life, full of drama, righteous anger but a lot of heart too.
Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. For tickets and information, click here